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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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JOB 4

ELIPHAZ' FIRST SPEECH:

THE VAIN DOCTRINE OF ELIPHAZ OFFERS ONLY VAIN COMFORTF1

This chapter and the next record the first speech of Eliphaz, loaded with the false wisdom of his day, "It merely poured vinegar, rather than oil, upon Job's wounds."F2 Out of the whirlwind, God Himself declared that Job's friends, "Had not spoken of God the things that were right" (Job 42:7); and the very first word that God spoke out of the whirlwind blasted the long-winded diatribes of Job's comforters, as "Darkening counsel by words without knowledge" (Job 38:2); and, therefore, the very worst mistake that anyone could possibly make in studying the speech of Eliphaz (or any of the rest of Job's comforters) would be the acceptance of what he said as the truth. In the light of that fact, we shall limit our comments on those speeches. God Himself has already made the only comment that one needs in studying these speeches.

Job 4:1-5

ELIPHAZ BEGAN WITH A COMPLIMENT TO JOB

Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said:

If one assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved?

But who can withhold himself from speaking?

Behold, thou hast instructed many,

And thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

Thy words have upholden him that was falling,

and thou hast made firm the feeble knees.

But now it is come unto thee, and thou faintest;

It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled."

In short, Eliphaz here says, "Look, why don't you take some of that good advice you have always been giving to other people? These words were a wound and not a comfort to Job. Eliphaz was totally ignorant of the unique suffering of Job, which was not due to his sins at all; and his self-righteous speech to Job must have sorely aggravated Job's miseries. Eliphaz, apparently the oldest of Job's comforters, and allowed by the others as the wisest of them, would go on and on with his "comfort."

WHO EVER PERISHED BEING INNOCENT?

Is not the fear of God thy confidence,

And the integrity of thy ways thy hope?

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent?

Or where were the righteous cut off?

According as I have seen, they that plow iniquity,

And sow trouble, reap the same.

By the breath of God they perish,

And by the blast of his anger are they consumed.

The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion,

And the teeth of the young lions are broken.

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey,

And the whelps of the lioness are scattered abroad."


 
Verses 6-11
Is not thy fear [of God] thy confidence, [And] the integrity of thy ways thy hope? Remember, I pray thee, who [ever] perished, being innocent? Or where were the upright cut off? According as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, And sow trouble, reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, And by the blast of his anger are they consumed. The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, And the teeth of the young lions, are broken. The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, And the whelps of the lioness are scattered abroad.
(Job 4:7)? What a colossal error was this? One must suppose that Eliphaz never heard of Abel. One of the great Biblical proverbs is that one must not yoke the ox with the ass; and some of the most fantastic theological blunders are the result of doing that very thing. Men seize upon some truth, and then yoke it up with some fantastic error. The truth is that God does indeed bless, protect and provide for his people; but there is also a tremendous amount of wickedness in the world that very frequently vents its hatred and destruction against the righteous. Satan, of course, is the implacable foe of all mankind, and especially of the righteous.

According as I have seen
(Job 4:8). Eliphaz' theology is here revealed to have been based upon his personal observation. No man's personal experience and observation constitute any solid ground for his theology. The true theology rests upon the authority of divine revelation, and not upon limited human observation and speculation. Unfortunately, also, as Job later pointed out, Eliphaz' observations and statistics were inaccurate (Job 21:17ff).F3

"The fundamental difference between Job and his friends is that they invariably found the cause of misfortune in the unfortunate, and Job, as for himself, found the cause in God."F4 However the real cause of Job's terrible misfortune did not lie in either center, but squarely in Satan. The Bible does not reveal whether or not Job ever knew this. The most glorious prayer ever recorded carries that epic line, "Deliver us from the evil one."

Job 4:10,11 are a rhetorical phase of Eliphaz' speech, a metaphor, in which the lions are the wicked, and their destruction, God's inevitable destruction of them. It was true only in the imagination of Eliphaz.

Then, in Job 4:12, Eliphaz introduced that tale about the vision he had; and, as we read it, it reminded us of some of those visions claimed by those prime time TV charlatans. No one could make a bigger mistake than to suppose that God really spoke to Eliphaz in a dream or vision. Commentators differ on just where the vision ends; but we accept the opinion that it was concluded only by the end of this chapter.

THAT VISION OF JOB'S FRIEND ELIPHAZ

Now a thing was secretly brought to me,

And mine ear received a whisper thereof.

In thoughts from visions of the night,

When deep sleep falleth upon men,

Fear came upon me, and trembling,

Which made all my bones to shake.

Then a spirit passed before my face;

The hair of my flesh stood up.

It stood still, but I could not discern the appearance thereof.

A form was before mine eyes:

There was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,

Shall a mortal man be more just than God?

Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?

Behold, he putteth no trust in his servants;

And his angels he chargeth with folly.

How much more them that dwell in houses of clay,

Whose foundation is in the dust,

Who are crushed before the moth.

Betwixt morning and evening they are destroyed:

They perish forever without any regarding it.

Is not their tent cord plucked up within them?

They die, and that without wisdom."


 
Verses 12-21
Now a thing was secretly brought to me, And mine ear received a whisper thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern the appearance thereof; A form was before mine eyes: [There was] silence, and I heard a voice, [saying], Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he putteth no trust in his servants; And his angels he chargeth with folly: How much more them that dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before the moth! Betwixt morning and evening they are destroyed: They perish for ever without any regarding it. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them? They die, and that without wisdom.
(Job 4:17), or, Shall a man be more pure than his maker? If ever the mountain labored and brought forth a mole hill, we have an example of it here. What kind of a revelation is this? It tells us nothing, but seems to ask a couple of questions that might be construed as critical of Job. Were not Job's protestations of innocence examples of a man claiming to be more just or pure than God? Almighty God Himself said of the speeches of Job's friends that they had not spoken that which was right (Job 42:7); and this writer does not dare to allege any rightness whatever in this speech of Eliphaz. His angels he chargeth with folly (Job 4:18). Franks, making the mistake of supposing this vision had any truth in it, wrote that it is contrary to the doctrine of the N.T. that, Some angels are good, and some are bad; all are fallible.F5 Whether or not this thought was in Eliphaz' vision, it is no basis whatever for supposing that the New Testament doctrine regarding angels in any sense contradicts the doctrine of the Old Testament. Satan, himself one of the fallen angels, is the unseen agent in the Book of Job who brought all the suffering upon that patriarch.

Who are crushed before the moth
(Job 4:19). A better translation of this is, Crushed as easily as a moth.F6

This is not the end of Eliphaz' speech; he really gets down to business in the rest of it (Job 5).


Footnotes for Job 4
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 466.
2: Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 7, Job, p. 27.
3: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 466.
4: Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 350.
5: Ibid.
6: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 564.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=job&chapter=004>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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